Missoula library officials look at possible Mercantile building purchase


MISSOULA, Mont. - The Missoula Public Library board of trustees recently voted to look at possibly purchasing the Missoula Mercantile building in downtown Missoula.

The Mercantile has been a downtown landmark since the 1880s. It became a Macy's in 2005, but later closed. The Virginia-based Octagon Partners bought it in 2011, but recently put it on the market for $4.5 million.

Library officials say the current downtown library site is cramped and inefficient.

Officials say in previous years, the library held focus groups to see if the library could possibly pursue expansion on its current site. Now, a purchase of the Mercantile building has emerged as another option.

"The Merc is one possibility that we have to look at first. It's right there. It's historical. It could work out to be the right size. These are all questions we're just going to start looking at," says Public Relations Librarian Mary Powers.

One possible plan for a purchase would be a mixture of private donations and the issuing of bonds. However, the talks are still very much in their early stages.

Library officials say the vote means officials will spend a maximum of 8 weeks seeing if Octagon will work with them on a purchase, and if not , officials will continue discussions of their options.